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J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2015;61 Suppl:S69-71. doi: 10.3177/jnsv.61.S69.

Nutrition Economics: How to Eat Better for Less.

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Center for Public Health Nutrition, University of Washington.


Food prices and diet costs contribute to socioeconomic disparities in diet quality and health. Lower-cost diets provide ample calories but lack essential nutrients. Nutrition economics can remedy health disparities by helping to identify food patterns that are nutrient-rich, affordable, and appealing. First, nutrient profiling models--such as the Nutrient Rich Food (NRF) family of indices--are able to separate foods that are energy-dense from those that are nutrient-rich. Whereas energy-dense foods contain more calories than nutrients, nutrient-rich foods contain more nutrients than calories. Second, new value metrics have identified affordable healthy foods, based on nutrients per unit cost. Third, these methods have now been applied to the analyses of individual foods and beverages, meals, menus, and the total diet. The Healthy Eating Index (HEI), based on compliance with dietary guidelines, was the principal measure of total diet quality. Although healthier diets did generally cost more, some population subgroups managed to obtain nutrient-dense diets at a lower cost. Being able to create affordable, healthy food patterns on limited budgets is an example of nutrition resilience.

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